Call the Midwife is back for its eighth season and so are the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a weekly guest blog. Watch the show Sundays at 7 p.m. through May 19, then read our blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.
By Hannah Diaz, MSN, CNM
Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives & Primary Care for Women at Melrose
Call the Midwife never fails to bring tears to my eyes, but this week’s episode left me feeling extra heartbroken. Jeannie (Molly Chesworth) is a vibrant young mother of two in Poplar who struggles with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Trixie and Dr. Turner both counsel her that she’ll adjust to the idea if she just gives herself time to accept the pregnancy. However, Jeannie is desperate and nothing they say persuades her against what she is determined to do. After an illegal backstreet abortion, Jeannie suffers through a horrible infection that ultimately leads to her death.
Illegal abortion seems to be a recurring theme on Call the Midwife this season. It surprised me to see the show tackle this topic again so soon after seeing Kath suffer consequences of a dangerous procedure in this season’s first episode. It was obviously a serious concern in 1964 England and would be until the Abortion Act of 1967. I have a feeling we will see more on the subject in episodes or seasons to come.
Another storyline that tugged on my heartstrings was that of a mother and daughter, both of whom are pregnant, who are estranged at a time when they need each other most. Enid (Niky Wardley) does not approve of her daughter Cilla’s (Hannah Hutch) marriage to Indian immigrant Pardeep (Omar Malik). Enid wants the best for her daughter, but she is blinded by her prejudice. Mother and daughter are thrown together when they end up in the maternity ward due to pregnancy complications.
To me, this episode isn’t about illegal abortion, family feuds or complicated pregnancies. It is about women needing support in pregnancy; support from family, medical providers and the community. Pregnancy can be the happiest, most meaningful time in a woman’s life; but it is also intense and terrifying if you are alone in your worry or fears. Jeannie, Cilla and Enid are all in serious need of support throughout the episode. Fortunately, Sister Julienne is able to help Cilla and Enid reconcile in the end, but Jeannie never got the understanding she needed, despite the caring efforts that were made.
In my years as a midwife, I have spent a great deal of time listening and being present with my patients. I think one of the greatest strengths of our profession is patience and compassion. I spend a large amount of my time sitting with my patients, listening to their fears, concerns and hopes. I’ve cried with patients and been there when family members couldn’t be. Being present and offering support through the happy, the challenging and the tragic times ‒ these simple acts make such a difference. I love how Call the Midwife demonstrates this support for the families of Poplar.
Hannah Diaz, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives & Primary Care for Women at Melrose, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.